Noteworthy Dive Bars of Frogtown Walking Tour on July 6th

[Link to map is here.]
How did Frogtown get its name?

That's a tale for another day, a myth yet to be inscribed into the annals of Saint Paul lore. But know this: Frogtown is the old heart of Saint Paul, the center of the center of the city within which many names are etched, many songs have been sung, and its history is a tale of constant escape. On July 6th, in the evening, we will walk the streets of this old neighborhood, circling the great green spire of Saint Agnes, that glows each night like a 90s Indiglo watch. These are streets where flocks of nuns still circle the block, lined with chain link fences, the valley into which those on the hills look down, the space between University and the train tracks, the everyman flatland.

And dive bars have long been nestled in Frogtown, sitting like the flowers that grow in the cracks in the sidewalk. And they are close together, so we will walk along them and I will share some gleaned stories of these old Frogtown places, stories of perseverance, defensiveness, community, eccentricity, and even murder most foul.

[Secret baseball museum!]

Come along and make the most of your Thursday evening!

What: Walking tour of three or four (3-4) bars in Saint Paul's Frogtown neighborhood
When: Leaving at 6:30 on Thursday, July 6th
Where: Willard's Liquors on Thomas Avenue
Why: Because it's there
Who: Free of charge (but tips appreciated). All are welcome!

[Frogtown streetscape.]


Twin City Myth #1: The Origin of Highland

Long ago when Saint Paul was young, but not too young, just young enough to be still in part untamed, shortly after the ancient peoples had been forced from the land by white folk from the east, pushed with guns past the edge of the setting sun, the white people took the land and made use of it for themselves and renamed it Saint Paul and declared it “good.”

The land was lush and green and mostly undivided. The animals and birds and trees were plentiful and great grasses covered the hills. It was during this time, shortly after the First Great War, that Highland was born, a vast land of hills and fields that lay above old Rumtown, mostly unsettled by these same white people. And in that time Highland was a great prize that glimmered in the eyes of men who came from all parts of the city to look on the lands, and all of them were promised marvelous things.

“Here will be factories," said a man named George, who built many things during Saint Paul’s early years, “and this land will be the foundation of many lives. Here we will provide riches and food and a good many things for the people to come. And none will want for bounty and all will be fat and bear many children.”

And the people listened and clapped their hands for they were glad to hear it, and they said, “Take this Highland and use it.”

And then another man came to these same hills over Rumtown, and this man offered a different proclamation: “This Highland will be a great green haven,” he said, raising his large hands above him. He wore a hat made of brown pressed fur, a suit of the finest dark felt, and bore on his wrist a gleaming watch of silver.

“This will be a place of peace and quiet,” he promised the people. “All around you will be safe homes and pleasing streets lined with great green trees, and these homes will give refuge to those who seek solace from the noise and din of the unruly city on the river. Here there will be women and children and grass and blue skies and the distant views of the fields thither and yon.”

And the people clapped again, but not too loudly, yet they were glad for this was the dream of many. And so it went for years after the First Great War had ended. And then a street was paved through the Highland, and then a second, and the men came to the land to look upon its pastures and to discuss among themselves what to do.

It was at this time that a very great man from the east appeared. His name was Henry Ford and he brought with him a host of companions with shining suits and thick words and slick hair and fine black hats. Gold fell from their pockets as they walked through the city, clinking on the cobblestones as they passed.

And on that day, Henry Ford arrived in an elaborate machine that transported itself without water, horse, or wire, and when the people asked how it worked he replied that it was a magical machine that he had crafted for himself out of metal from the northern mines and coal from the east and rubber from jungles across the sea.

And the people were amazed, and transfixed their eyes as it moved by itself without horses or wire or steam or metal track. They saw it and exclaimed “Oh!” and bustled with joy, for the man was stern yet finely dressed and spoke with measured fervor, promising impossible things.

“One day every single one of you will have one of my machines and the color shall be black,” he said to the people, “and on that day all of you will all have the power to go anywhere at any time and every man will be his own master. These will be called motorcars and they will carry you swiftly into the future."

"More than this, you will build these magical machines yourselves, and every man who builds one shall be able to own one,” said the great man Henry Ford.

And at that the people trembled with joy. They shouted their praise and begged the man for favor. And so the great Henry Ford offered the dream of motorcars for all, and demanded the best, finest pastures in all of Highland for his great factory. And the people made promises of land and access and workers. And Henry Ford asked not only for the land, and access, and workers, but also for the river itself, and the people agreed again and offered up the flowing water and pledged their loyalty and hours of toil.

And so it was that a great factory came to Highland, and it rose on the bluff over old Rumtown, just up river from the oldest fort of the white people. And soon the factory belched smoke and churned with noise and whistles and clanking steel, and thousands of men lined at the factory gates to sweat inside, and from its gates poured motorcars one by one all day and all night to cover the land with their speed and insistence.

And soon after that the streets of Highland were built encircling the factory and lo they filled with quiet homes for the men with families and good jobs, and small apartments for the men without, and men and women and children came to the Highland from across the land and these new streets were filled with motor cars.

And so it went for many years, through hard times and easy times. And though there were many hard times, the factory that the great Henry Ford had built stayed busy and productive and gave food and gold and motorcars to men and their families for many years.

And then in Highland a great temple was built to show stories in motion pictures, and every day inside its walls a new story was told, images made of light and dark. And the people flocked to its gates and waited in line to see the flickering stories made from light itself and it kept their heads and thoughts free and light as eagles soaring over the great river.

And then a great road was built, long and straight as the tallest white pine, and it crossed the length of Highland and alongside the road a great green field was crafted from the earth. And along this field, short green grass was sown in lovely patches and trees were carefully set in place and tiny holes were drilled into the grass and flags were planted in honor of men that they may wander and frolic upon the short grasses. And lo the men came and formed into small groups and chased tiny white balls during daylight hours, wandering the well-tended pastures and forming thoughts of nature and their place within and upon it. And they tamed the land around them in threesomes and foursomes and later they drank mixed drinks and spoke again of the future and all was well for a time.

And while a long, unforgiving plague had spread across the land, causing misery and hunger throughout the hills and across the prairie, yet in Highland there was food and warmth from well-tended fires, and people came to Highland from across the city for solace and opportunity.

It was at this time that a great stone tower was built on top of the highest hill, designed by a man with dark skin, and it was filled of the purest water and surrounded by an endless staircase and at the very top the people could gaze in all directions. Inside the tower a great light was lit and it shone for all to see, marking the highest of the high hills of Highland. And the people declared it “good.” And thus the Third Ward was born.


Reading the Highland Villager #184

[Villagers chillin' by the fireplace in Mendota Heights.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.]

Headline: Changes sought in Snelling rezoning; Lower building heights urged at St. Clair corner
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There is a plan to rezone much of the land facing Senlling Avenue using newer, more old fashioned, “traditional neighborhood” zoning that allows more mixed-use walkable land uses. A developer wants to build a building on the corner of Snelling and St. Clair. Some people want some of the building site to be TN3 and the rest of it to be TN2 while others want it all to be TN3.Also there is a church that might be either TN2 or TN1. Neighbors are concerned about “negative impacts.”

Headline: Redevelopment in works for last bit of old brewery; Cohen agrees to purchase office, building, rathskeller
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A developer is going to buy part of the old brewery and make offices and a restaurant there. Nearby another building by the same developer is going to become a “festival marketplace” and will open in in the fall. CM Noecker is quoted saying “I’m beyond thrilled.” People who have worked at the neighborhood group plan to retire soon. The neighborhood group currently owns the building. Germanfest will be on Summit Avenue this year. [That’ll be fun, but probably also different than if it had been at the brewery.]

Headline: St. Paul neighbors, B&Bs seek to regulate short-term rentals; Licensing, zoning and taxation proposed for Airbnb-type offerings
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Saint Paul has never had any regulations for online “bnb” type things but they are going to start soon. City staff have studied the issue, and wants to add signage, parking, and other standards. [Let’s keep parking minimums to a minimum, shall we?] Large buildings will be allowed up to four rentals, but can get permits for more. Article includes brief description of the internet. Quote from resident:” If I rented my triplex to conventional long-term residents, there could be si cars on the street; typically now there are only two on any given day.” The Planning Commission will look at this soon.

Headline: Vision becomes clearer to replacing busy Dale Street bridge over freeway
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a meeting to discuss how to improve the bridge over the freeway when it gets replaced soon. [The bridge is an unforgivable sidewalk hell.] The County is going to expand the bridge, build 16’ sidewalks, and create a public space. There are hills near there that pose problems. There will also be bike lanes. [Kind of silly/meaningless because Dale Street is one of the worst for bicycling in the entire city. Still anything would be an improvement over the horrific status quo.]

Headline: Ramsey, Hennepin approve new transit tax
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [The sales tax to pay for transit will be doubled and counties will not have to compromise as much with their plans.]

Headline: Midway stadium project gets underway on south end of site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Construction of the soccer stadium has finally begun. Existing [strip mall] businesses will remain for now.

Headline: St. Paul’s city parks are facing $57M backlog in maintenance
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A lot of park infrastructure needs money, according to a new report by a consultant.

Headline: County Board gives itself 2.6 percent raise for 2018
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Commissioners make $92K a year now. [Nice work if you can get it!] CM Rettman voted against the raise. [Cantankerous pro-parking gadfly] Bill Hosko is quoted.

Headline: Fewer complaints reported despite extended Grand Old Day
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Not as many people complained this year, only five, and two were for noise. There were pedicabs and Uber and more cops. Not enough people went to the Italian Pie Shoppe, though.

Headline: Committee advises city on how to prepare for aging population
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Old people are getting older. Also Saint Paul is more “ethnically diverse.” Many older people need more housing. Quote from neighbor, “too many of our elders are becoming isolated.” [Seems like we need better sidewalks to me.]


Notable Quotes #8: Paul Molitor on Twin Cities Bicycling

[Paul Molitor as a U of MN ballplayer in the early1970s.]

I think a lot of people have their special place. ... It's just a tremendous mix that make me feel like this is what I want to call home and what feels most like home to me.

I enjoy the outdoors a lot. I'm not really a fisher / hunter type guy. I don't run much any more, my knees don't let me to, but I love to walk. I love to bike.

You know we got great trails here man. It's one of things where I've got a road bike, I've got a speed bike. It's one of those things where depending on the day and what I feel motivated to do, I can hop... I can go out of my house and get to the pass over there.

I can go all the way over to the Cathedral in Saint Paul and take the pass down the river and go up Summit Avenue and take a different route. It's one of those things where if I have personal time, you know, you'll probably find me on my bike somewhere.

I love the lifestyle.

[Saint Paul native, Hall of Fame baseball player, and Twins manager Paul Molitor describing what he loves about the Twin Cities.]


*** 25 Weekend Sidewalk Links ***

Sidewalk Rating: Amplified

You are familiar with the problem of crime. Let me draw your attention to another phenomenon, exactly parallel and originating in exactly the same social circumstances: Fire. Unless I mistake the trends, we are heading for a genuinely serious fire problem in American cities. In New York, for example, between 1956 and 1969 the over-all fire-alarm rate more than tripled from 69,000 alarms to 240,000. These alarms are concentrated in slum neighborhoods, primarily black. In 1968, one slum area had an alarm rate per square mile 13 times that of the city as a whole. In another, the number of alarms has, on an average, increased 44 per cent per year for seven years.

Many of these fires are the result of population density. But a great many are more or less deliberately set. (Thus, on Monday, welfare protectors set two fires in the New York State Capitol.) Fires are in fact a "leading indicator" of social pathology for a neighborhood. They come first. Crime, and the rest, follows. The psychiatric interpretation of fire-setting is complex, but it relates to the types of personalities which slums produce. (A point of possible interest: Fires in the black slums peak in July and August. The urban riots of 1964-1968 could be thought of as epidemic conditions of an endemic situation.) . . .

The time may have come when the issue of race could benefit from a period of "benign neglect.”The subject has been too much talked about. The forum has been too much taken over to hysterics, paranoids, and boodlers on all sides. We may need a period in which Negro progress continues and racial rhetoric fades. The Administration can help bring this about by paying close attention to such progress — as we are doing-while seeking to avoid situations in which extremists of either race are given opportunities for martyrdom, heroics, histrionics, or whatever, Greater attention to Indians, Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans would be useful.

[Big ol' yard sale in Rondo, Saint Paul.]


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Twin City Doorways #31

[New Orleans, LA.] 

[New Orleans, LA.] 

[New Orleans, LA.] 

[D'Arnaudville, LA.]

[Lafayette, LA.]

[New Orleans, LA.]

[North End, Saint Paul.]

[West Side, Saint Paul.]


Signs of the Times #125


[Pole. West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]

Your Brown
Paper Bags

[Door Location forgotten.] 


[Location forgotten.]

Mr. Dave
is out

[Door. West Saint Paul.]

Please Do Not
Machine Filled
with BEES

[Sent in by a reader.]

 DO NOT Use For Confidential Trash

[Trash can. Location forgotten.]

Sorry we are closed
please visit our other
castle located at 100 W
lake street we
apologize for the

[Door. Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[Window. Whittier, Minneapolis.]


Reading the Highland Villager #183

[A Villager perched on a mailbox.]
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free. See also: Three Reasons Why I Re-Blog the Highland Villager.] 

Headline: City’s master plan for Ford site endorsed by task force; Though a minority of task force members maintain the zoning is too dense
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A “planning task force” that has been meeting for ten years [yes you read that correctly] voted on the city’s zoning plan and approved it. Article includes details of the plan. One member is quoted as being concerned about density. [Most ridiculous] quote: “[she] asked her colleagues how it would feel walking along that village thoroughfare beside mixed-use buildings up to 75 feet tall.” [Believe it or not, by “village thoroughfare” she was referring to Ford Parkway. If you’ve ever walked along Ford Parkway, you know that it feels constantly as though you are about to be run over by multiple turning SUVs at the same time. The curb cuts are atrocious, most especially the one leading into the Lund’s strip mall area. Crossing the street is similarly horrible, with multiple lanes of cars speeding up and down the hill from the river, weaving back and forth. Village thoroughfare this is not.] There is still some debate over how to resolve the little league ballfield pickle, as the land targeted for ballfields is owned by the railroad and they have “objected to having its former railyard designated for recreational use.” [For some reason the article does not list what the vote actually was. For example, 12-3? 9-6? How big was “the minority”? That might have been useful information to know.]

Headline: Divided Highland Council supports city’s plan for Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Same article as above only with the neighborhood group instead of the task force. The vote was 8-3. Neighbors are concerned about traffic, density, and character of the neighborhood, and attended the meeting. [...and roundly booed when the votes were cast, I am told. One woman left shouting "Highland elects the mayor!"] Other neighbors were not concerned about these things. Best description: “When [one man] said the plan shows only a ‘minor increase’ in traffic in the surrounding neighborhood, many audience members guffawed.’” [Incidentally, here are some slides from the carefully-done traffic study, which makes conservative assumptions about mode share, that show how minimal the traffic increases would be.] One man was concerned about heights relative to trees: “the area’s tree canopy tops out at six stories. ‘Anything taller than that stands out.’”

Headline: City pursues new use for Ford rail spur; New transit, bike and walking trails studied
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There was a community meeting to discuss how to make use of the abandoned railroad corridor from the Ford site to most of the way to downtown. There might or might not be transit on it. People like bike and walking plans, but not necessarily transit plans. The railroad is playing hard to get.

Headline: Riding tandem: Ford, Riverview planning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Planning for the Ford site and the Riverview transit corridor are happening simultaneously. [In theory this could be great as land use and transportation are two sides of the same coin, so to speak.] A Riverview decision will be happening in the fall. It might or might not go through the Ford site.

Headline: Support grows for river balcony plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Planning Commission voted to support a plan to build a walkway along the bluff downtown. Neighbors are concerned about sightlines. [There is no money for this.And if the city is committing money to it, that seems like a big opportunity cost for projects which could be built this decade.]

Headline: UST to expand Aquinas Chapel as first project in its master plan
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A church building on the campus of the University of St. Thomas is being expanded. Neighbors are concerned about Tommies, especially the younger ones. Dorms are expensive to build. Near many schools, private developers build student-oriented housing. [For example, all around the U of MN.]

Headline: Thirst to be doused at old firehouse
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: An old fire station will become a wine bar if the City council says it’s OK. There will be a hotel built next to it.

Headline: Commission says it’s a ‘go’ for VanGO Auto in Highland Park
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A car repair place will be allowed to start renting VW camper vans. Neighbors are concerned about having too many camper vans parked on the site at the same time.

Headline: Twin Cities Pride march gets moved to John Ireland blvd.
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [Because Catholic priests have always supported Pride, haven’t they?]

Headline: Your sales tax dollars at play: Cultural STAR grants $800K
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city gave out some money through its arts funding program to arts-type things. Article includes list.

Headline: Public weighs in on city’s proposal to rezone Snelling Ave.; Plan promotes denser redevelopment along busy transit corridor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is planning to rezone parts of Snelling Avenue, from 94 to Ford Parkway, to “traditional neighborhood” zoning, which allows for less auto-oriented uses and more walkable density. Neighbors are slightly concerned about density, affordability, sunlight, and parking.

Headline: Efforts to aid homeless continue with second phase of Dorothy Day project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The homeless shelter downtown is expanding thanks to some money from the city, Met Council, and probably state.

Headline: Residents balk at city’s higher rate for renting block party barricades
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city doubled the amount they charge for barricades for neighborhood block parties. It now costs $130. [This is dumb. Block parties are a huge asset to neighborhood social connections, and probably save the city money in the long run in public health and policing costs.] Some neighborhood groups would like to have smaller barricades that they rent out to people, but Public Works wants to keep the 10’ ones. Quote from Director: “We’re a public works department, not a collection agency.” Article quote CM Tolbert who says the city needs the money.

Headline: Counties to go their separate ways in funding transit improvements
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The board that funds transit projects is now separated, with only Ramsey and Hennepin working together very closely. Riverview funding will be more likely under this scenario.

         Vc;l [additional note from my cat.]<--- additional="" cat.="" from="" i="" my="" note="">


Support this Blog -- Subscribe for Summertime Tours

[An alley in the Mediterranean Alleyway district.]
Hello sidewalk fans.

I wanted to make a plug to support this blog via my Patreon page. I'm planning some summertime adventures. In addition to the regular psychogeographic bike rides and walking tours, free and open to the public, I am planning a few more exclusive trips. These will be limited in size, and will involve a small fee to cover costs.

For example, one of them involves exploring Saint Paul's new "Mediterranean Alleyway District" (as I have begun calling it in my mind). I'm working on planning right now, but we'd be walking around a mile or two exploring unique alleys and eating amazing hummus and/or baba ganoush along the way.

The other tour concept is something I'm calling the "Obscure Museums" series. Groups necessary limited in size will go on bike rides to explore and discover a few unique and/or overlooked "museums" (broadly defined) around Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

I've begun planning both of these first tours, and for logistical reasons, both will be limited in size. as always, Patreon subscribers will advance notice and a first crack at it.

Meanwhile, I have a few moire dive bar tours (walking and biking) in mind, along with a some less beer-oriented bike tours for the summer and fall.

Check out my Patreon page and consider signing up if you'd like to support this work.

Thanks! It means a lot to me.

[Tour theme spoiler!]


Signs of the Times #124


[Sidewalk. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 Butts are litter.
Dispose of

[Window. Downtown, Saint Paul.]

 Found:  Kitten!

My daughter found a kitten in front of ###
### on Kellogg just before
Monday ####.

If you lost yours, call me with a description.


[Pole. Downtown, Saint Paul.]


[Cannonball, North Dakota.]


[Yard. Seward, Minneapolis?]


[Sidewalk. West Side, Saint Paul.] 

Don't block

 [Tree. Seward, Minneapolis?]


[Pumpkin. Saint Anthony Park, Saint Paul.]


[Window. Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul.]

are being

[Wall. Location forgotten. West 7th Street area.]